Macall Campbell on a balance beam

Teen gymnast Macall Campbell was “skeletologically immature,” which could have caused neurological problems if her vertebra had slipped any more, says Stuart Weinstein, MD.

Macall Campbell has been a gymnast for as long as she can remember. She competed locally for years until, in the eighth grade, she was eligible for regionals and, eventually, nationals. That same year, though, she noticed a twinge of back pain. Then the pain worsened and became more noticeable. A bone in the spine had slipped out of position onto the bone below it, a condition called spondylolisthesis. Macall’s mother, Cindy, recalls a chiropractor giving her some rehab techniques, cautioning her to take it easy, and telling her she might someday require surgery. Macall continued competing, making it all the way to nationals in San Diego, Calif. Upon arrival, her back pain was so intense she couldn’t even practice. She withdrew from competition and headed for the emergency room. Macall’s vertebra had slipped even more; surgery was necessary. Macall and Cindy returned home to Grimes, Iowa, then began searching for a specialist with whom they felt comfortable. Three different surgeons all said the same thing: Surgery was possible, but no more gymnastics. Finally, the Campbells learned about Stuart Weinstein, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

“I went online and realized he was world-renowned,” Cindy says. “And here he was, in Iowa City.”

Weinstein made no promises but also no dire predictions. Macall’s recovery would be up to her and her own level of determination. Surgery was performed in October 2011. Remarkably—after six months in rehabilitation and physical therapy—Macall returned to competitive gymnastics. Today, as a high school junior, she has realistic hopes of competing at the college level. “When a child is passionate about something and then is told ‘you can’t do it anymore,’ that’s like a kick in the gut,” Cindy says. “To see Macall get all of that back, to be back out there competing, is just amazing.”

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